‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’

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Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy, The Cripple of Inishmaan, is playing at the Noel Coward Theatre from June until the end of August and, for all Harry Potter fans out there, Daniel Radcliffe is in the starring role of Billy Claven.  For 12 weeks only the Michael Grandage Company brings to the stage the island intrigue of McDonagh’s play, set on the Arran Islands in the 1930s.  Tickets are still available.

Concerning the real life story of the Man of Arran, The Cripple of Inishmaan follows Billy Claven, a crippled orphan, who seizes his opportunity to escape small town life when a Hollywood film crew visits the islands off the West Coast of Ireland and he is given a role, to the shock and jealousy of his fellow islanders.  Premiered in 1996, at the Royal National Theatre in London, two years later the show went to New York City and then Los Angeles, before returning to the Big Apple for a run by the Atlantic Theatre Company in 2008.

The Grade-II listed Noel Coward Theatre, previously known as the Albery Theatre, dates back to 1899 and was first opened in 1903 as the New Theatre in Westminster.  Acquired in 2005 by Delfont-Mackintosh Ltd., it was refurbished and reopened in 2006 under its current name – a nod to the famous playwright who himself performed in his own play there (I’ll Leave It To You in 1920).  Indeed, the theatre has seen many famous names tread its boards, including John Gielgud, Alec Guinness, Judy Dench, and John Hurt – and now Radcliffe.

Martin McDonagh is a filmmaker and screenwriter in addition to playwright (he recently worked on Seven Psychopaths, starring Colin Farrell).  He holds dual citizenship with Britain and Ireland, and his first plays are all set in and around County Galway, divided into two trilogies of work: the first contains The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara, and The Lonesome West (all written 1996-7), while the second consists of The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, and The Banshees of Inisheer (from 1997 to 2001, the last remaining unpublished).   His purpose in writing The Cripple of Inishmaan was for the audience to be confronted with a ‘truly Irish story’.  Indeed, the black comedy was performed on Inishmaan itself in 2011, seeming verification of this desire.

The Daily Telegraph has called the play “disgracefully funny” and the Daily Mail noted its “beltingly good Irish cast”.  Meanwhile, Daniel Radcliffe’s lead performance has been called “the heart and soul” of the show by the Sunday Times.  The former child star has been steadily distancing himself from his Harry Potter days, taking on roles such as The Woman in Black and, infamously, Equus.  Indeed, although younger fans of J. K. Rowling’s wizard might want to see their hero live on stage, they should perhaps not be encouraged to see The Cripple of Inishmaan, due to some more adult themes.  That said, older children always enjoy a darker, more thinking comedy.  Treat them and yourselves.